Better Viewed in the Nude
In 1972, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing finally addressed the differences in the social presence of men and women. Berger argues that women are always the object of sight and that men are always assumed to be the observers. Berger concludes that “women are depicted in a quite different way from men – not because the feminine is different from the masculine – but because the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of woman is designed to flatter him (64). Berger’s argument proves to be evident as more and more women are portrayed as objects, evidenced by many advertisements in magazines such as, Essence and BusinessWeek. Women in today’s advertisements have been posed to sell objects, thus they have become the object and a sight for men.
Advertisements today have convinced women that everything they do or should do is for the pleasure of a man. While flipping through the pages of these magazines, one might run into words that read “pick up some pretty,” like in Target’s ad in Essence Magazine. This concept is constantly reflected in the ads of several recognized magazines. In many of these ads, the copy suggests that the woman is just not flattering enough; they have more to offer her, to enhance her image. The only reason her image must be “pretty” is because she must be flattering to her male spectators. Men have convinced women to maintain their hair, nails, make up and clothes; women now believe in these unrealistic identities. Women have been persuaded to think that they must maintain a flawless image of beauty or they will not be valued by men.
On the cover of Business Week’s August 15-August 28, 2011 issue, a woman stands in forefront. Across the front of her body, the word “popularity” appears in bold, capitalized letters. She is wearing, what appears to be a one shoulder dress, however, on the dress there are an assortment of items such as: packs of Oreos, a computer keyboard, a miniature basketball, Tide laundry detergent, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, a bobble head, a bottle of perfume, cans of Coca Cola sodas, bags of Lays chips, packs Orbit gum, and many other items. Every item on her dress is labeled with arrows pointing with the correct indication of what the item is. The woman’s eyes are opened wide, her mouth is slightly opened, and her eyebrows are raised; her overall facial expression looks distraught. Every object is strategically placed on the woman’s dress, the woman is then placed in the dress; she becomes the object of sight. “Men of state, of business” will look at the cover of this magazine and be “reminded [that he is] a man” and the woman pictured is an object (Berger 57). The spectator is allowed to watch this distraught woman and pass judgment on her, which is suggested by the arrows, while she stares back at him. The cover itself has very little connection to business, thus the whole purpose is to objectify women and the ideal spectator or audience is assumed to be men in business.
Today, advertisements are tactical and creative with how they pose their female models; they focus mainly on the physical features of their bodies and display them at largest. They prioritize the audience’s wants first and position their model to accommodate the thoughts of the spectator. According to Berger, “the way the [advertiser] has [posed] her includes her will and her intentions in the very structure of the image, in the very expression of her body and her face” (58). In Levi’s Curve ID ad in Essence Magazine, two young females appear; one woman extrudes her lower back out to poke her buttocks out in her Levi jeans. Her face looks noticeably uncomfortable and is awkwardly turn to where her neck does not appear at all. Her hair is roughly placed in a ponytail that extends down her back. The other woman lies partially down in her Levi jeans; her legs are up on the